Craig and Kelly Robinson, the brother and sister-in-law of Michelle Obama, are suing a K-12 Milwaukee private school for alleged racism against non-white students. They claimed the school’s lessons included racial stereotypes, that administrators downplayed instances of racism both of their sons experienced from classmates, and the school expelled the boys in retaliation when the Robinsons raised their concerns.

Craig Robinson, the older brother of Obama, and his wife Kelly are suing the University School Milwaukee for racism and breach of contract. The Robinsons told Good Morning America they were first concerned by the school when they overheard a virtual lesson unfolding while their kids were doing schoolwork from home. Their children are in the third and fifth grades.

Craig Robinson said the school’s lessons involved “repeated use of racial and ethnic stereotypes that were in actual assignments. The use of the word ‘plantation,’ and things of that nature.” He also claimed that USM displayed an “insensitivity to socioeconomic status, as well as a disregard for the children who weren’t physically in the classroom.”

“This story resonated with many families in the community,” Kelly Robinson added in the interview and mentioned even more egregious instances in the school’s past. “One of the stories that we were made aware of was that, just as recent as 10 years ago, the University School of Milwaukee had in their 4th-grade curriculum that students reenacted the Underground Railroad, and students dressed up as slaves … And the teachers were actually the slave masters who captured these students.”


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She said she spoke with USM head of school Steve Hancock directly after a bias reporting system established by the school didn’t function. “[Hancock] told me that this is in fact not a bias, and challenged our bias,” Robinson said. She noted that Hancock was extremely open to their communication and asking for their opinion several times after the complaints were made, before suddenly switching gears and dismissing their students.

The school responded through Hancock who denied the accusations. He claimed that the students were expelled not because of the racial issue raised, but because the way the Robinsons brought up their complaints violated school policies in an unspecified way. He also reportedly said in an email to Kelly Robinson that the communication of their concerns was “disrespectful and deflating.”

Craig Robinson said “I don’t have any idea where any of that comes from,” when asked about the criticism of their communication, and added, “This needs to stop and change, and this will help all students at the University School of Milwaukee.”

Along with the concerns mentioned in their interview, the Robinsons also penned an open letter warning parents about USM. “We are aware of instances in which white students have regularly used racial epithets, such as the N-word; when brought to USM’s attention, administrators dismissed the seriousness of the behavior, noting that those using such abhorrent language on campus were ‘good kids,'” they wrote.

In this letter, the Robinsons also mentioned that they may be requesting monetary damages in this lawsuit, but “any money we receive as a result of this legal action will be put towards initiatives designed to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in schools.”

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